Always an Adventure

June 9, 2009

Yesterday my gastroenterologist (Dr. Gravitas, his blog-pseudonym) was sitting next to me “brainstorming,” as he called it, about why it was that I felt so vaguely (but convincingly) bad. We were in one of the GI examing rooms in the Portland Clinic, which I should mention (now as good a time as any) are some of the most cheerless spaces I have ever been shut into: basement-trapped, windowless, yellowish, and papered with horrifying and didactic posters illustrating all of the fatal ways your digestive system can sabotage you. The medical assistant, whom I will call Felicity in observation of her inexhaustible, if occasionally clueless, cheer, routinely asks me what the weather is that day. I hate to use the term Morlock twice in the space of a week, even though you likely weren’t around for the first allusion, so I’ll try again: These poor professionals operate entirely in a chthonic lair, pale and resigned. I have trouble imagining what could be redeeming about this medical pursuit.

Dr. Gravitas was unrolling a list of possible sources to my malady. It could be that my esophagus and stomach had “really done a number” on themselves due to my medical insurance’s sudden complete refusal to pay for my acid-reducing drug (I hadn’t had a dose in a week). Maybe I had a virus or an infection in my esophagus. Possibly even a Crohn’s situation in there. But the symptoms were the best match for the possibility he listed first: gallstones.

Patients with Crohn’s have gallbladder difficulties inherently. General inabilities to reabsorb or handle bile, cholesterol, various interacting bits and bots. I haven’t taken time to go click on things and learn more about that. What I do know is that I lack an Ileum. This is unfortunate, because, as Wikipedia explains, “95% of the salts secreted in bile are reabsorbed in the terminal ileum and re-used”. I lack an ileum because they took it out, along with my appendix, a tumor, some lymph nodes and a wayward valve or two. This means my likelihood of getting gallstones is sort of a lot high.

“How do you treat gallstones, anyway?” I asked.

“You take them out!” he said, and laughed. Then he seemed a bit ashamed that he’d laughed but I was sill mirthful.

“Can they at least use the same holes?” I asked, referring to my extant scars from the Ileal extraction.

“Actually, it’s quite possible,” he said. He still seemed surprised that I exhibited levity.

“When I first met you,” he said, “I couldn’t even come into the room before your pulse leapt to 120. Now I’m telling you about potential surgery and–”

“I’ve been doing some relaxation exercises.”

“They’re working.”

My symptoms do line up with gall-badness. Pain and difficulty with fatty foods. Pressure and upper-abdominal misery. Recent rapid weight loss. A few other I’ll leave out because this is a family-friendly site (well, not really).

Tomorrow I’ll spend half of the day at St. Vincent hospital, a photo shoot for my upper-tubes. Perhaps I can make it glamorous. I doubt it, as barium milkshakes usually give me what could be understated as the violent and desperate runs (I rescind my family-friendly claim). Thursday morning I’ll have an ultrasound to look for those gall-pebbles. If the Thursday thing indeed finds solid bits, I’ll need to have surgery in the short term, during which they’ll yoink my gallbladder out.

It is probably exceedingly sad that this kind of feels old hat, but mostly I am bemused. If laparoscopic surgery and organ– (decrement!) is all it requires to not feel as moderately malaise-d as I have been lately, I’ll take it. Really.

I do love hearing from you in support, however. Please, if you feel like talking to me, this is a good time.

  1. Hi Lyza… we barely know each other, but I enjoy your writing & photography – especially about your letterpress work, because old machinery is cool, especially when making art with it. I find your health-related posts fascinating too, though I’d prefer you had less to write about there – I’m thinking good thoughts for you and hope Thursday works out for the best!

  2. Josh says:

    Really hope everything goes well for you Lyza. It makes me sad that you have to go through so much.

  3. Alan I. says:

    Lyza, I am thinking good thoughts for you. Your Hemingway style of writing always pulls me in. I hope your scan reveals information that will get you back to your mental and physical self. Kind regards, Alan

  4. caroline thomas lingham says:

    Hi Lyza, I love the way you express yourself in writing and I can imagine myself with you at the clinic. You’re a fantastic writer. Please take care of yourself. I’ll light a candle in church this weekend and pray that you recover from your ailment. Count your blessings. Rgds. Caroline

  5. Catherine says:

    Lyza, Annie and I are thinking of you here on this side of the pond. You have been brave and amazing and wonderful. Don’t lose heart. We love you.

  6. Annie says:

    Hi Lyza,
    just read your blog (Cath sent it to me) Take care of yourself. will be thinking of you on Thursday. Annie

  7. doug says:

    sending waves of antipodean goodwill and hopes for wellbeing. Would love to hear more about any recommended relaxation exercises – apologies if I missed a blog about them …

  8. Markalope says:

    At the risk of being the creepy guy who’s met you once and then responds to blog posts about personal issues….

    Ouch! I can’t imagine having to go through what you’re dealing with right now, especially since my anxiety about doctors sounds to be about equal to what yours was(?). Done the barium shake thing tho (no whip, no sprinkles). Dignity = gone.

    Be strong – take everyone’s relaxation advice and good luck!

  9. mary says:

    knock ‘em dead? break a leg? hang in there, baby? [it's so hard to find the right thing to say when you're not the praying kind] well, anyway — what I mean is, you have my best wishes for your continued strength and endurance.

  10. Michelle says:

    Found out today that I apparently have pregnancy-induced gallbladder issues. I seem to have some level of pain with ALL foods, which – WTH. Looking forward to an ultrasound myself.

  11. Christie says:

    Dear “Always”: You “always” are– insightful, quirky and creative, amusing, inspiring, and enveloped by friends and family. Count me among your fans. And thanks for continuing to write.

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